Tag Archives: Milo Yiannopoulos

Angela Nagle on what the Alt-Right is really all about

Angela Nagle has written an interesting post on the “alt-right” in The Irish Times in which she makes a distinction between true-believer white supremacists like Richard Spencer and provocative trolls like Milo Yiannopolous who formerly identified as “cultural libertarians”.

She suggests that it’s hard to makes sense of things without recognising that there are a lot of people who enjoy being transgressive just to “freak the normies” and don’t necessarily believe the nonsense theiy spout. Classic trolls, in other words.

And finally, she notes that the alt-right did not appear in a vacuum, but as a reaction against the excesses of some parts of the moralistic left.

A new generation of liberal left-identitarians display chilling levels of pack pleasure when conducting career-ending, life-destroying hate campaigns against people for minor infringements against the liberal moral code such as off-colour jokes.

But like the US socialist writer Shuja Haider recently argued: “It should go without saying that left-liberal identity politics and Alt-right white nationalism are not comparable. The problem is that they are compatible.” Tumblr needs 4chan just as neo-masculinist misogynists need a perpetual supply of listicles about man-splaining, and the Alt-right needs finger wagging “Dear white people” liberal commentary to denigrate ordinary white people at every opportunity. None of them would make sense without the other. While Spencer’s plans are unlikely to catch on any time soon, the emergence of the Alt-right should warn us of a now imminent nightmare vision of what the coming years might hold – a public arena emptied of any civility, universalist ideas or openly competing political visions beyond a zero-sum tribal antagonism of identity groups, in which the boundaries of acceptable thought will shrink further while the purged will amass in the fetid forums of the Alt-right.

One of my fears for 2017 is that the culture wars that have devastated the worlds of science-fiction fandom and tabletop roleplaying games will come to the world of music. We’ll have performatively woke identity warriors “interrogating” the “whiteness” of metal and progressive rock, racist idiots crawling out from under their rocks to champion prog-rock in response, and it will all spiral down into Gamergate-levels of toxicity. It will become next to impossible to write with any passion about the music itself without getting caught up in politics.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

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Goodbye Nero

So Twitter have finally had enough and banned the notorious troll Milo Yiannopoulos, @Nero for his part in egging on the racist harassers of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. Much of Twitter erupted in cheers. His 300,000-strong alt-right fanbase cried foul.

Let’s get one thing straight. Yiannopoulos deserved to be perma-banned from Twitter. He’s repeatedly and flagrantly violated Twitter’s Terms of Service, not just sailing close to the line but driving a coach and horses through the spirit of the rules.

Kicking him off Twitter is probably a net gain for free speech. That’s because the fear of being the centre of a witch hunt has a silencing effect. The mob is as an effective censor as the bureaucrat with the red pencil, and as with all censors, the goal is for force people to self-censor, to make whatever things the censors don’t like become unsayable. And it’s all based on power.

Yes, it’s too little, too late. And it does look as though Twitter only acted because the latest ugly eruption involved a celebrity. Twitter does need to be consistent and transparent in the way it enforces its own rules, and needs to devote enough resources to do the job properly, things which are not currently happening. Making a public example of Yiannopoulos just looks like a quick-and-dirty fix, and a very political one at that. Especially when by no means are all of the awful, abusive people on Twitter on the right.

Twitter has had a problem with trolls and mobbings for years, and it goes back long before movements like GamerGate or the rise of the alt-right. Go back a few years and it was parts of the so-called progressive left who were leading the witch hunts and harassing people who said or did anything they didn’t like. The worst parts of social-justice call-out culture were a frightening thing, and one false move could put anyone in their crosshairs. That had the effect of legitimising the tactics that Yiannopoulos and his ilk would later use in the service of right-wing causes. One you claim there are no bad tactics, only bad targets, you hand a terrible weapon to your enemies.

Twitter does need a rethink about what it’s for and what it does best. At its best it’s a great conversation space that’s most effective for interaction with your peers rather than the unequal relationship between celebrities and ordinary people. And because it’s far more mainstream it breaks down when subsets of people try to import the values of subcultures that developed places like 4chan or Tumblr which become toxic outside of those spaces.

(Given the subject, comments are closed on this post)

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